May 19, 2012 by Vicki
Elizabeth Gilbert’s novel, Eat, Pray, Love, details her physical and spiritual journey through Italy, India and Indonesia. Eat, Pray, Love tells the story of one woman’s path to strength and fulfillment. Through her story, we may be able to find the start of our own needed journeys.
In the beginning of Eat, Pray, Love, she falls apart. Her carefully constructed sense of self and her corresponding life no longer match what she feels and thinks. She goes through the terrible destruction of divorce which causes two people, who once upon a time loved each other, to be completely unable to understand one another. Yet, at her very worse moment, when everything seems bleakest, she finds her strength in the Divine. The book does not push any particular religion. She simply details her own experiences and the way she organizes her new understanding of the Divine into a system that works for her. Her journey and experiences in Italy,India and Indonesia solidify her new understanding of herself and of the Divine.
Each country that she visits represents, to her, a quality that she wants to give herself.Italyrepresents uncomplicated pleasures such as beautiful words, fantastic food and good friends.Indiarepresents devotion and spiritual enlightenment.Indonesiarepresents the balancing of opposites. Through her voyages in each of the three countries, she details and investigates the cause of why she had not given herself these gifts before.
Elizabeth Gilbert talks about how, before she went to Italy, any pleasure she gave herself came with its own burden of guilt. She couldn’t simply enjoy a plateful of good food. She worried about her weight (even when she knew herself to be underweight.) She couldn’t simply learn a course because it interested her. What about the cost? What about the loss of time? Shouldn’t she take something that would help her career? I know I empathized and understood her discussion on the guilt related to any source of pleasure. North American culture teaches us that is inappropriate to act based on your own desires. Yet, we constantly seek the quick fix to our ennui and our exhaustion. To escape our own minds and bodies seems to be a driving force within us.
India forced Elizabeth Gilbert to live inside her own mind and her own body and love herself. She discusses how hard she found it to sit and meditate. How hard her own ego fought to make her think about anything but her soul. How often has a friend told you that they tried to sit and take it easy, but their mind wouldn’t stop running? I know I have experienced that phenomenon myself. Try to find out what’s going on inside your own mind and, boy, do you have a fight on your hands! In Eat, Pray, Love, she takes it even farther by searching for the Divine within herself. She lives in an Ashram in India to learn the physical, mental and spiritual exercises needed to reach enlightenment. I found the switch from Italy to India mind-blowing. Yet, she described it as if she had always been in the Ashram. For her, it felt like coming home.
In Indonesia, she returns to a pleasure-filled environment yet learns to balance her pleasure with her devotion and spiritual development. She finally accepts herself and, with help from a friendly medicine man, learned to “smile even in your liver” (p.241). For those dying to know; yes, this is when she meets her love interest. But I’m not saying anything more. You will have to read it for yourself. At the beginning of Eat, Pray, Love, she is a disillusioned, depressed, underweight woman who, desperately, clings to the objects of her love. By the end, she finds happiness, balance, beauty and the ability to love and yet, remain separate from her love. May we all find such riches.